Saturday, 20 July 2013

MEL SMITH – Rest In Peace, You Glorious Bloke

Mel Smith, one of this country's greatest comedy minds of the 1980s and 1990s has died of a heart attack at the age of 60. It is nothing new to hear about celebrity deaths in the news, but this one hit home for me in a profound manner.

Not just because I loved Mel's comedy work, his perfect timing and his legendarily deadpan facial expressions. Not just because his work alongside the equally wonderful Griff Rhys Jones struck me as damn near perfect. Not just because of his skills with satire and impeccable timing. Not just because of his talents as a writer and director as well as a comedian.

The passing of Mel Smith hit home because he came across as someone it was very easy to know. I cannot remember anyone having a cross word to say about Mel. His off-screen life was never at the forefront of the public consciousness, and that is to be commended. He will be remembered for the things that people love so dearly from throughout his career, from the things that everybody remembers (Not The Nine O' Clock News, Smith & Jones, Bean etc), to the things people of a certain age remember (Wilt) and things that only obsessive obscure film geeks like me remember (Morons From Outer Space), and that's how it should be.

My thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues. A genuinely saddening, shocking loss. The world is less rich now. As a viewer, a fan and an admirer from afar - not to mention a fellow bloke who went bald far too early - all I can say is “Thank you, Mel.”

Here is a favourite moment of mine from his lengthy and varied career. The interplay between him and Mr. Jones was sublime.


Monday, 8 July 2013

CURSE OF CHUCKY TRAILER - Sigh.

I can't stand the Chucky movies. I liked the first one, CHILD'S PLAY, but the sequels were useless, and when the franchise took a different turn with BRIDE OF CHUCKY and then SEED OF CHUCKY, a once-promising horror franchise had finally given in and gone the same way as entries 4,5 and 6 in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series. That is to say, replaced anything remotely compelling with bad jokes and a total lack of atmosphere.

This new one, CURSE OF CHUCKY, seems to be a low-budget retread of the original film in some ways (a lack of Tiffany and Glen/Glenda for one thing, which is a plus), but it also looks like a pretty desperate attempt to hold onto the rights. What is this, people? HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS? Check out the trailer below. You may love it. I don't. Make your own mind up.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Review: QUEENSRYCHE - "QUEENSRYCHE" (2013)

Queensryche 
“Queensryche” 
Genre: Progressive Metal/Hard Rock 
Century Media 

Note: The magazine already ran two great reviews of this album this month, 
but I really wanted to add my own take too. Here you go! 

Consider my jaw well and truly dropped. I am a huge Queensryche fan and have been so for twenty years, which is why it had been so heartbreaking to see their star fade to much in recent years thanks to a shift ever further away from the sound that garnered them their legendary status.

Internal turmoil amidst the band came to a head finally with the firing of vocalist Geoff Tate, a split which has resulted in two bands existing with the Queensryche name (this one and a new one fronted by Tate with a new backing band). This album is by the regular Queensryche musicians with their stunning new vocalist, Todd La Torre.

Some would call this version of the band the 'real' Queensryche, and on the strength of this frankly brilliant album, it's pretty hard to argue otherwise. Geoff Tate may have been the recognisable voice of the band, but now La Torre is at the microphone, it is clear that the band has always been about more than just Tate's voice. The music sounds 100% like classic Queensryche while Todd's voice fluctuates between sounding very much like Tate in his heyday and Todd's own style. It's an approach which works absolutely perfectly.


The songs are the best to bear the Queensryche name since the iconic “Operation: Mindcrime” and “Empire” albums. “Where Dreams Go To Die” is an instant classic from the revitalised band, while “Spore”, “In This Light” and “Redemption” carry all of the hallmarks of the band's trademark sound while adding a new and very uplifting dimension.

They genuinely sound like they have been given a new lease of life with the exit of Tate and the addition of La Torre, whose voice is nothing short of stunning. This eponymous album feels like a new beginning, but it also sounds very much like a direct follow-up to “Empire” with a contemporary twist.

Tracks like “A World Without” demonstrate just how much the band is capable of, its dark and dramatic chorus a perfect example of the music of Queensryche both then and now. The theatrical element that has always been a part of their sound is there in spades throughout the first half and latter songs “Don't Look Back” and “Fallout”. The album ends with the epic grandeur of “Open Road”, and while it' a grand song, it comes far too soon.

At just 35 minutes long the album feels too short. Not rushed, just not enough of it. That's the only quibble I have. One edition of the album comes with bonus live tracks, which would help, but it feels like the studio album itself needs one more song to make it truly a masterpiece. That said, even with the short running time, the album is absolutely, utterly essential. A magnificent return to form.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Free fiction: LIFE THROUGH A LENS

I wrote a short story for the newsletter at my day job, and thought you may like to check it out as well. A little bit of fantasy and a little bit of life.



Life Through A Lens 
by Andrew Hawnt 

“So can I ask what the trouble is you’ve been having, sir?” Jane asked, looking at the little old man over her slim specs. In the subdued light of the optician’s examination room he looked serene. It made a nice change from the shouty bloke she’d just had in when he’d been complaining that the price of the test had been too high.

Mr Charlie Graham grinned and his heavily-lined face lit up like an aged sunrise. “I wouldn’t really call it a problem my dear,” he said gently. “More of a wonder.” His smile took on a mischievous edge when he slipped his glasses out of the velvet sleeve he produced from the inside pocket of his smart suit jacket. “What do you make of these?”

Jane took the glasses from her customer and resisted the temptation to rub her eyes. Only three more to go and she could head out into rush hour traffic to shout at other motorists for an hour. There was a bottle of red and a giant bath waiting for her at home, which made the day easier to deal with.

The glasses looked normal enough, clean, well cared for. Much like Mr. Graham himself. “Nice glasses, good condition. What would you like to know?”

“Have a look through them.” Jane hoped he didn’t have some weird fetish for seeing opticians wearing his glasses. She raised the lenses towards her eyes and-

Gasped.

She pulled them away immediately and examined them again. Mr. Graham was grinning. “I- what? I’m not sure what I just saw. Is it a trick?”

“Look again, my dear. You’ll see something different.”

Jane hesitated. When she had looked through the thin pieces of glass, she had seen a glimpse of a beach. A faraway beach. A beach from her childhood. A memory, perfectly captured beyond the lenses of an old man’s glasses. An impossible thing.

She looked again. Light swamped her field of vision, visible only through the glasses the old man had brought in. Normal glasses that were – she could not deny for one second – were showing her images from her past.

“That... that’s the house I grew up in! I haven’t seen that place in forty years. It doesn’t look any different! Even the tree in the garden.That’s... that’s my old bike in the garden...”

She pulled the glasses away from her face, her head spinning, her breath sharp and quick. She handed the glasses back to Mr. Graham. “How is this possible?”

“I don’t know,” said Mr. Graham with his smile still beaming. “But I wanted you to have them. You gave me the prescription for them, and somehow they started doing this a few months ago. I had to get another pair to see the present through. I wanted to give them to you as a gift, as they have given me so much pleasure.”

He handed them back to her, and she let her fingers curl around their cool form. “They let me watch myself as a young man," he went on. "Meeting my late wife, living the beautiful days, the best times of my life. The people around me thought I was day-dreaming, but I was travelling back in time and watching my children grow up again. I saw every good moment of my life through those glasses and was able to feel alive again. I have a terminal illness and won’t be around much longer, so I wanted these glasses to go to someone who deserved them.”

“This is impossible. They’re impossible. I don’t... but... thank you. Why me?”

“Because I saw you through them one day. I was nearby and I saw you as a child. I knew it was you as I looked again and saw you as a young adult, coming here to start your job in the opticians. When I saw you as a child I saw you with your mum, getting into the lead car of a funeral procession.”

Jane struggled to speak. “My dad. That was my dad’s funeral. I was six.” 

“The glasses will let you see him again,” Mr. Graham pointed to the glasses and gestured for her to put them on. “You deserve the chance. And after all, impossible things can be beautiful, even though they shouldn’t exist. Impossible things keep the magic in life, and those glasses will let you experience all the magic you’ve known before, all over again, as though it was happening right now.”

Jane did put them on, and saw the house again, this time seeing herself as a toddler, playing in crunchy autumn leaves with a man in his forties, smiling and laughing with her as she stomped and tumbled into piles of brown and orange leaves. Her father held her aloft, and they laughed together as more leaves fell from the ancient tree outside their old house. She watched herself play and giggle and cry when she fell and scraped her knees. She watched her father soothe her tears and carry her back into the house on his shoulders. She could have sworn she heard his distant voice, singing to her as it still did in dreams and memories.

When she pulled the glasses away, she realised Mr. Graham had made his exit. She slipped the glasses into her bag and tried to calm herself for the next appointment. She had a few minutes to spare.

She picked up the phone from her desk and dialled for an outside line.

“Mum? It’s me. Are you busy tonight? There’s something you need to see...”

 (c)Andrew Hawnt 2013